U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2007, 41, 4633-4639


Uranium (U) solid-state speciation in vadose zone sediments collected beneath the former North Process Pond (NPP) in the 300 Area of the Hanford site (Washington) was investigated using multi-scale techniques. In 30 day batch experiments, only a small fraction of total U (~7.4%) was released to artificial groundwater solutions equilibrated with1% pCO2. Synchrotron-based micro-X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy analyses showed that U was distributed among at least two types of species: (i) U discrete grains associated with Cu and (ii) areas with intermediate U concentrations on grains and grain coatings. Metatorbernite (Cu[UO2]2[PO4]2•8H2O) and uranophane (Ca[UO2]2[SiO3(OH)]2• 5H2O) at some U discrete grains, and muscovite at U intermediate concentration areas, were identified in synchrotron-based micro-X-ray diffraction. Scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive X-ray analyses revealed 8-10 µm size metatorbernite particles that were embedded in C-, Al-, and Si-rich coatings on quartz and albite grains. In µ- and bulk-X-ray absorption structure (µ-XAS and XAS) spectroscopy analyses, the structure of metatorbernite with additional U-C and U-U coordination environments was consistently observed at U discrete grains with high U concentrations. The consistency of the µ- and bulk-XAS analyses suggests that metatorbernite may comprise a significant fraction of the total U in the sample. The entrapped, micrometer-sized metatorbernite particles in C-, Al-, and Si-rich coatings, along with the more soluble precipitated uranyl carbonates and uranophane, likely control the long-term release of U to water associated with the vadose zone sediments.